Saturday, December 31, 2016

Rudolph and Santa Take on the Snow Goons with Menorah Machine Guns

Holiday Team-up:
A belated Merry Christmas and a happy final day of #hanukkah2016

My kids are pleased to reap the benefits of both holidays. 
This one was a specific request, and, alas, is not drawn on a napkin. We were out of town and I was napkinless and markerless. I did have some watercolor paper and a little boxed paint set and was able to work on this rather muddy image.
I was asked to make Santa and Rudolph super buff (not my sons' term) and using menorah shaped machine guns. I added the Calvin and Hobbes style Snow Goons since it seemed like an enemy was in order.
My kids are of "mixed background" ie, as we like to say, some of us are Jewish by birth and some of us are "not." (Although those of us who are not might be able to say the entire Hanukkah blessing in Hebrew, while those of us who are might not...) At any rate, we celebrate any holiday which might involve the giving of gifts to children. Mercifully, the two holidays coincided this year.
Can you believe that no one else has used the hashtag #menorahmachinegun on Instagram ?!! Or even #machinegunmenorah
Yet another unfilled niche on the web.

You can see our other holiday (Christmas and Hanukkah) images at these links:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Catastrophon with Space Unicorn

These two seemed to go together well...horns, big eyes, excessive cuteness...

Of course the Catastrophon is the ultimate destructive evil (ok, one of several ultimate destructive evils) in Skottie Young's "I Hate Fairyland" volume 2, and the Space Unicorn is the insipid, rainbow spreading, happy deliverer of mail from Parry Gripp's ear worm song and video.... 

But otherwise, they have a lot in common.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Paleo Gingerbread Men

I baked some "Paleo" Gingerbread Men: 

We're pretty confused about diet around here, but definitely sure the holidays are coming soon.

(For those not wasting their time fixating on diet: "Paleo" in this case meant "grain-free" and "dairy-free."  Or Premodern hunter/gatherers who did not get diabetes or autoimmune disorders. Take your pick.)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ninja Gingerbread Men

My younger son has been wanting to make gingerbread cookies for a while now. I was stalling as his descriptions of the qualities he was looking for in a gingerbread cookie were daunting: detailed and very recognizably ninja shaped, yet simultaneously very soft, squishy and delicious.

I have always been a better frosting spreader than a baker. And recently due to my various health fixations, I have more or less purged any actual grains out of my baking rotation which makes things even more complicated. I have made many things with coconut flour, or almond....or tigernut flour... or cassava flour...the list goes on and on... that no one in the house wants to eat.

When it came time to finally make ninja gingerbread men this evening I was ready to make gluten-full regular gingerbread. But sadly, I discovered that we didn't even have any real flour in the house and I had to use "Paleo flour." And I resorted to blackstrap molasses as we did not have any of the regular stuff there either. So the gingerbread people will be perhaps a little too alternative and a little too nutritious for their own good....or at least a little too nutritious for my kids.

My older son tasted the gingerbread and told me it would be better if they were just "breadmen" without the ginger (and the other ingredients)

Oh well. As you can tell by the napkin, my perspective skills could use a bit of work as well as my baking skills. I will keep trying.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Monster Calls in the Classroom

I picked up a copy of "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd to read to my son on the train during our daily commute to school without giving the plot of the book much thought.  It features a monster visiting a young boy, and I was pretty sure that would make for compelling reading on packed subway cars.  I did not pay too much attention to the fact that the the boy's mother is slowly dying from cancer throughout the story.

And I didn't count on my son identifying with the protagonist quite so thoroughly and deeply. As my son's not actively dying mother, I found this a little bit disturbing, although I recognized that it was perhaps unintentionally (on my part anyway) therapeutic, and certainly provided a compelling distraction during trying  subway rides. "A Monster Calls"  is not just about loss so much as overwhelming anger and guilt in the face of loss, and this is perhaps what made it so relevant to my son.  Although my son did helpfully point out to me that my brief and totally non life threatening health issues earlier this year made him feel like he has a lot in common with the kid in the story. Oh dear.

We just discovered that this book that I had initially thought was maybe  a little obscure is a huge bestseller (#1 in "Teen and Young Adult Monster Fiction" on Amazon...did you know that was a category?) and has been made into a movie supposedly opening later this year.

My son is very enthusiastic about seeing the movie.

Having managed to read long weepy maternal death scenes out loud to a subway car full of strangers without overtly crying, I am cautiously optimistic about taking him to see it.

(The kid in the classroom on the napkin is more my son than Conor O'Malley, if that needs to be pointed out)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Holiday Inks

Some small silly holiday themed sketches for donation to a holiday fund raiser.
Pretty sure that I am going to get them back after the fundraiser.
Not on napkins, if that needs to be said.  I donated a napkin last year, and that was also rather unpopular.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Esu From Rumble

The kids really loved reading  "Rumble" written by John Arcudi, illustrated by James Harren. 

The main character is an ancient demigod charged with the killing of monsters who has been unfortunately embodied in a large scarecrow.  The world is populated with a wide and creative assortment of monsters known as "Esu."  Some Esu are small and cute.  My younger son particularly liked this one, but requested that I give him less disgusting teeth.

I gave him my son's snaggled teeth.  He recently had 4 teeth pulled in anticipation of braces.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Chewie Rudy

In honor of Black Friday and the beginning of the holiday season:

Chewie Rudy cleans some thanksgiving gristle out of his teeth.

I'm not sure there is really an explanation for this one. My younger son combined a Chewbacca mask with reindeer and wolf ears headbands and his own stylish fedora.

I thought it was an inspired combination and somehow appropriately seasonal.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Kaiju's Revenge

Happy Turkey Day?

No turkey at our house today, much to our kids' disappointment. 

Their father, as he would say, "has not intentionally consumed poultry" in decades. Usually my mother is in charge of providing the turkey, my father in charge of carving.  They are not with us his week, although my mother thoughtfully served a bird at their last visit.

Three years ago, my parents stayed away during thanksgiving because the kids had the flu. My mom had ordered a smoked turkey which arrived despite her absence. By the time the actual turkey day arrived, the kids were better but had passed the flu to their father and he was too sick to venture out of the bedroom. 

I did my best to carve the smoked turkey for the kids, discovering that it was a lot more challenging than I had ever imagined. After they had watched me crack open the vacuum packed bird and incompetently chase the slippery carcass around on the kitchen counter, hacking at it, they announced that they would not be eating any turkey.

The point of the story, I suppose, is that I did not cook a turkey for my sons this year. They did recover fairly quickly from their horror at the incompetent smoked turkey carving experience, and are now happy to eat turkey. I'm just not up to it. 

But I do enjoy drawing turkeys.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Battlepug Rides the L Train

Don't step in the drool.

We are quite honored to be included in the fan art section in the back of Mike Norton's Battlepug Volume 5: The Paws of War
Battlepug has long been one of the kids' favorites: a cute dog that is enormous and able to eat enemies, other ridiculous animals, a little girl who swears, violence and tasteful nudity, what more could lower and middle school boys wish for?

Thanks Mike!

You can see our other Battlepug or Pug napkins at those links.

Monday, November 21, 2016

RaptorPool for Dinovember 2016

Or perhaps it is VelociPool?
 (Just not DinoPool, my sons say, as that has already been done.*)

In honor of #Dinovember: A Merc with an extra toothy mouth. (I debated about covering up his mouth, and teeth, with a more accurate mask, but in the end, I just couldn't do it.)

A couple of days ago, I was picking out some images from the last year, and I noticed the overwhelming prevalence of Deadpool napkins. So here is yet another.

A classmate of my older son was over for a visit recently, and I overheard him declaring that Deadpool was the only superhero that still interested him at his advanced age of 14.  While my sons are still compelled by other supers, Deadpool definitely stands out for them also.

Wade is the only superhero with a R rated movie... Could there be a connection?

*The T-Rex DinoPool in "Deadpool Kills Deadpool" from 2013, which also featured the much-beloved-at-our-house PandaPool.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Dinovember Foot Rub

Are you my mother?

Dinovember is an idea created and promoted by two plastic dinosaur toy owning parents, Refe and Susan Tuma. They supposedly convinced their young children that their dinosaur toys came to life during the night by posing the toys in various scenarios around the house so they would be discovered when the kids got up in the morning. Every day of the month it would be as if the kids' dino figurines have been up to something: eating cereal in the kitchen, congregating around the pieces of a vase they broke, or more improbably, cleaning the bathroom. Since the Tumas have spun their Dinovember Facebook page pictures  into a successful picture book, the dinosaurs have become more adventurous, breaking eggs, practicing dentistry, and even running for president.

Alas, we are much less ambitious (and successful) at our house. 

While I was all in for Inktober, making a creepy drawing everyday in ink for the entire month of October (managed to convince at least 300 followers to depart our Instagram account during the one month!) I didn't think I could manage a whole month of dinosaur related posts.

But here's one at least.

Our kids' favorite spot after a hard day at school is our disintegrating Costco couch. They often ask me to "snuggle" on said couch with them. What the younger on really wants is for me to rub his feet while he watches YouTube videos. 

After reading Marvel's "Moongirl and Devil Dinosaur," the kids agreed that it would be good to have one's own dinosaur.

Particularly if you have one that will rub your feet....

My younger son looked at this napkin and asked, "Mom, are you a dinosaur?"

(The dinosaur was based on one entered in a Stan Winston dinosaur competition by Tom Rush. I did not come up with the turquoise coloring on the Velociraptor's face, but it paired nicely with my sons' shirt and socks)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election Night Monsters

Mouths and Hair:
Just the important parts.

The kids really enjoyed reading Max Brallier's "The Last Kids on Earth" books recently.

The story follows a group of kids who have survived some sort of apocalyptic event where nearly every human has been turned into a zombie and a wide range of bizarre monsters have suddenly appeared in town.

I don't remember these fanged furballs having a particular name or classification. They were just part of a wide variety within the monster population- and were drawn much more humorously and successfully by the book's illustrator Douglas Holgate.

I know it's a bit of a reach, but somehow these creatures composed only of mouths and hair seemed appropriate to me last night as we watched the 2016 election take a turn for the worse.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Basket of Adorable Depolorables

"Trump Your Cat" is a meme.
A highlight of the election.

We are anxious about next Tuesday around here.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Monster Self

Spontaneous Remission and Adaptation:

Sometimes challenge leads to improvement and adaptation.
And sometimes not.


This is it, I promise.  This is drawing #31 for inktober 2016, started on October 31st, and full disclosure, finished on November 1st.  Halloween and the days before were rather busy, with costumes to be assembled and trick or treating and such, so I fell behind on posting. I can no longer stay up late at night to finish anything, so here it is November 4th, and I am still finishing up on October.

Just to recap for those of you who have not suffered through the whole month's worth of drawings...
Inktober is a yearly drawing challenge originated by artist and author Jake Parker. The premise is that one tries to complete at least one drawing in ink per day for the entire month of October. Mr. Parker also provided various thematic prompts for each day which I completely ignored.

It seemed like a good excuse to make a bunch of drawings with low expectations. Low expectations are always good.

I did not start out necessarily thinking that I was going to wallow around in my recent personal experiences in health problems and alternative medicine, I planned to make some humorous images of heads based on silly pseudoscientific medical terminology. But pretty quickly it became clear that I could not put rat feet on anyone else's head. And since it was me, it became about me as well.

My apologies to everyone who is here for the napkins. This series is officially over.

Back to regularly scheduled programming.

"Health Journey"

It's not over really until it's really over.


Many of the people in the "alternative" health and wellness community use the phrase "health journey" when they discuss a story of illness and recovery.  Ideally, this is an empowering narrative, where acquired knowledge leads to a cure, or at least some sort of mastery of the situation.

You want the story to have an ending, and a happy one at that.

I am still relatively new to all of this. I officially became a person with psoriasis at the beginning of the summer. The situation had no doubt been brewing for months, if not years beforehand, but I did not have a nationally recognized specialist examine me and then tell me that I would have psoriasis for the rest of my life until June of this year.

And then while I was still working through accepting my new lifelong need for long sleeves, sunglasses and a tasteful scarf, all the symptoms disappeared. At this point, I don't think my kids even remember that I had the problem. I still have a drawer full of arm sleeves and scarves to remind me, but even so, the visceral memory is fading quickly.

It might seem that I managed to fight off this supposedly incurable disease through a rather extreme regimen of fasting and dietary restriction (and by getting more sleep? and by trying to meditate? etc, etc)....

But who really knows?  That is the story I would like to tell- that through force of will, and against the express advice of medical authorities- although with the kind assistance of several alternative health practicioners- I managed to fix myself.

The last dermatologist I saw told me with absolute certainty that if I did not immediately start taking a potent chemotherapy drug and a heavy dose of topical steroids that the psoriasis was going to spread all over my body and I was going to get a MRSA infection in my eyes. I did fill the prescriptions he gave me, but instead of taking the pills, I went home and didn't eat for a few days. This made no one happy at the time, but after the fast was over, my symptoms were half gone. After a second fast five weeks later, they were almost completely gone.

It could all be a coincidence.
...And my symptoms could come back.

I have spent enough time on the disease specific message boards- the one for the National Psoriasis Foundation emails me a link every day delightfully titled "Team Inspire"- to know that many cure stories have an unfortunate epilogue. A parent dies or another illness appears or some other sort of horribly stressful situation develops and the psoriasis finds a weak spot and returns in full flare.

So, I am not congratulating myself too much.
But it is nice to have a mostly happy ending for the moment.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Catabolism with Debatable Adrenal Fatigue

Sick and tired of being sick and tired?
Or merely just sick and tired?


My apologies- I am belatedly finishing up my Inktober posts a day late because I am no longer allowed to stay up late to catch up on anything....And yesterday was Halloween, so there were costumes to assemble, and trick or treating supervision, etc.

But the drawings were all completed in October...well, except the 31st which I finished today.

This is drawing number 29.

I had lots of boring, whiney things to say about it, but I think I am going to skip that for tonight.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Hyperpalatability Without Gluten and Glucose Tolerance

Just because I can't eat it, doesn't mean I can't think about it.


Rebiosis with Related Immunologic Stimulants


My microbiome has two major inputs, ages 9 and 13. They work hard cultivating their microflora- sampling all available surfaces for exotic species, and scrupulously avoiding the depletion of their biome through hand washing.

And they are always happy to share.

Excessive Fermentation

Remain cautious while pickling at home.


Saturday, October 29, 2016


Maybe those toxins have better places to be.


If only detox really worked like this...

Friday, October 28, 2016

Unresolved Opposing Dietary Philosophies and Macros

Paleo vs. Vegan? 


While it is reasonably clear that a diet of donuts and potato chips is not a boon to human health, the road gets slippery from there on out. 

I was considering writing a bit about my highly unqualified thoughts on the various qualifications of dietary philosophies...but I just haven't the heart.

I'm haven't eaten many animal products over the last few years, and I haven't consumed any grains, legumes or processed foods over the last few months, but this does not make my diet Vegan or Paleo.

The whole topic and the ferocity with which people debate it makes me want to take a nap.

...Or produce a ridiculous drawing of my head sandwiched between a Bison and a giant pumpkin.

More on the topic of food.  I disliked the following drawing so much that I neglected to post it during Inktober... But in the interest of completism, here is it is with its commentary:

Unsubstantiated Nightshade Sensitivity:

The Sad and Silly End of the Mostly All-Nightshade Diet
Anything Fun on the Menu Probably Has Nightshades in it.

Of the many food categories that I had removed from my diet recently, nightshades seemed like the most obviously troublesome. There is a high correlation between autoimmunity, particularly psoriasis, and problems with nightshades.

There's lots of information out there, some of it plausible, some very unsubstantiated, about the supposedly problematic qualities of this category of plants. I can't say I have an opinion at this point, I am just playing it safe for the time being.

But before my recent health issues, I had never focused on just how much of my daily menu was made of, or at least seasoned with, nightshade vegetables. And this goes beyond the obvious staples of pizza, pasta marinara, french fries and spicy foods.

Over the summer, we had dinner with friends. They had heard that I had some health related dietary restrictions, and kindly prepared a spread of vegetarian options including: grilled eggplant, cherry tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, small potatoes...

As much as I enjoy not having a disgusting rash over a large portion of my face and body, and am happy to go without many foods to remain this way, I must admit that I do miss tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and gogi berries...

Not so much eggplants and tobacco.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Challenged Oral Microbiome

When did I become such a mouth breather?


I have consumed a lot of "health and wellness" information somewhat indiscriminately over the last few months. I've read a good many books and listened to a good many podcasts put out by people of various credentials and levels of expertise on topics that did not necessarily relate to my specific concerns. While it is reasonably easy to weed out the ridiculous, it's harder to discern what is the most useful among the non-ridiculous  information.

"The Microbiome" is a hot topic lately, as a potential source of all sorts of disparate problems. Most of the conversation is about the gut.

But the microbiome of the digestive system begins in the mouth. There is less information on this aspect...but theoretically, all the things that we do to clean our mouths- the brushing and scraping and rinsing- might actually be depleting the ecosystem. 

And some say that persistent mouth breathing is also injurious to the biome.

I would not have described myself as a mouth breather, but now that the weather has turned colder, I am finding that I have to constantly remind myself to shut my mouth and use my nose.

Is this really improving my microbiome's health?...hard to say. 

But maybe best not to be a mouth breather anyway.

(On a side note: this image is a definite callback to a photograph I took 14 years ago. At least this time I did not have to shove a small sculpted head covered in oil paint into my mouth- something that was certainly not good for my oral microbiome)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Managed Negative Stress Response

Self protection can be a good thing.
Except when it's not.


When my older son was a toddler and experienced frustration or anger while playing with another kid, he would sometimes turn around and whack me. As his primary interface with the world, I was also the place he chose to deal with his negative feelings. Not always pleasant for me, but definitely part of the parenting job description...and also better that he should whack me than whack another child.

12 years and another child later, fortunately no one is hitting me because a toddler took away a toy. However, both kids do still tend to verbally vent their frustrations in my direction. While they are now in my weight class, they're still at a pretty young age when it comes to emotional management. In the throes of intense frustration, they are more than willing to tell me I am the worst mother in the world and that they are going to call Child Protective Services to report me. 

Of course one does not take things personally and express irritation at such comments when one is a responsible, mature, parent person....

Nonetheless, it is sometimes hard to not to get a little stressed, while assisting the stressed child to process his negative emotions.

Protecting oneself from some of the wear and tear while still being open and available to parent is...well, maybe an art and a science.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Poor Implementation of Self Care

Putting other people first is not always a workable solution.


For most people, the idea of motherhood is pretty much synonymous with the selfless care of others. I never thought of myself as particularly selfless or maternal before we had our first child. In fact, I would have described myself as mostly self-centered and self-serving...(hopefully in the somewhat positive way that men are allowed to be, but is considered unappealing behavior in people who can gestate and lactate.)

Nonetheless, I have undeniably found certain aspects of caregiving to be very gratifying.

And yet I find some aspects ungratifying. Particularly, now that we are thirteen years in on the parenting project and I find myself still doing many things for kids who really should be doing more for themselves. This is of course all my fault, as I am their parent and should not allow the situation to persist.

Things have improved a bit recently because they had to. Asking your mother, who is just finishing a five day fast, to carry your backpack up the subway steps because you are kind of tired... Well, you might not do it so often after the error of your ways has been pointed out to you. However, you would probably still expect her to make you dinner, clean up after you, and do your laundry....

But on the other side, if you are a mother who does too much for other people and does not leave enough time to take care of yourself, you could end up run down and develop problems with your health...and then you would not be able to take care of those other people as effectively. 

And you would be further inconveniencing those other people you are supposed to be caring for by making them worry about you and your crappy health problems. 

I'm working on it.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Poor Sleep Hygiene with Acquired Melatonin Insufficiency

Don't Go Towards the Blue Light


Of my many health crimes, sleep deprivation was clearly the biggest and the least debatable. I felt fine on 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night for over a decade. I did. And I was an excellent sleeper during those few hours that I was in bed, rarely having any trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. 

And I could look at my blaringly blue-lit phone right before bed, say at 1 am, and not have it effect my sleep either.

Of course, I was so horrendously sleep deprived that really nothing could keep me awake.

Now that I have spent a lot of time reading and listening to various authorities tell me how essential regular sleep is and how damaging the bright blue light pouring out of all of our electronic devices can be to circadian rhythm, I can't look at my phone after 7 pm without wincing.

But I am still doing it. Case in point, finishing this post at 8:56 pm. while wincing.

But I do have my phone set to "night shift" And I am going to put my phone away and go to bed really soon. 


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Potentially Inappropriate Extrapolation of Mouse Models

Analogs? Or Cuddly Pets?


Mice are used to study most human health problems. We share at least 95% of our genome with mice, and they can be manipulated to mimic almost human disease...But there are some significant differences between the immune systems of mice and people, so the model may not work as well for autoimmune issues as it does for, say, cardiovascular risk. And autoimmunity is often a complicated problem with diet, stress level, activity levels and genetics all playing a role.

There is always the urge to act quickly to implement new research, but treatments and "lifestyles" that benefit rodents don't alway work for people. 

Meanwhile, my pet deprived younger son and I have often discussed the possibility of a mouse or rat filling the furry creature void at our house. I think, however, we might see feral rodents too often on the New York City subway platforms for a similar creature to be a snuggly companion. 

...And it would certainly be a stressful and potentially unhealthy life for any mouse models living at our house.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Meditative Respiratory Ataxia

I'm not very good at meditating. 
But I am quite good at not breathing.


As I have mentioned before, I took up meditation as part of working on treating an autoimmune problem. I've not been trying anything fancy, just breathing in and out. 

But this mindfulness stuff has reminded me how terrible I am at breathing.

I have to remind myself constantly all day long to stop holding my breath and clenching my jaw...while on I am the train, while I am exercising, while I am listening to my 9 year harangue me about how he absolutely needs to buy a Nerf gun with a bayonet attachment.

And just thinking about my breathing makes me tense, which I am pretty sure is not the intended effect.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Adaptogenic Adaptation

Adaptogenic Adaptation 

What effect does all this ingestion of "natural" herbs and roots really have?


I sought help from what one might call "alternative health" because I wanted to avoid taking a chemotherapy drug with some rather well known, and rather substantial, side effects. 

However, the avoidance of Methotrexate has ironically led to the ingestion of many other less well studied substances. Ideally, if a substance is more or less a food, and perhaps even a food that has been consumed traditionally in another culture for hundreds or even thousands of years, it must be relatively safe...maybe?

Adaptogens are a particularly relevant. They are defined as "natural substances considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes" They are supposedly able to perform the magic trick of supplying the body what it needs when it needs it to achieve homeostasis. Most of us have heard of Ginseng, but there are many others including Licorice, Eleuthero, Schisandra, Aswaganda, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, etc, etc.

While such adaptogenic herbs are not inexpensive, there is no serious pharmaceutical money in them, and therefore few well-funded, double-blind, peer-reviewed studies on their effectiveness and side effects.  No drug company can own Licorice root, so there is little incentive to fund a study. This is in marked contrast to the super-expensive "Biologic" medications for autoimmune disorders that can range from a few to a hundred thousand dollars for a year of treatment.  (At least Methotrexate, bless it's toxic and no longer patented soul, is extremely cheap.) 

I've taken quite a few adaptogens and other supplements over the last few months without any apparent negative consequences so far. My skin is mostly asymptomatic and at this point, I don't even test positive for autoimmunity. 

Was it the adaptogens?...or the getting more sleep?...or both?...or the lack of gluten and dairy? 

The mystery will have to remain unsolved.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cognitive Decline with Suspected Neuroinflammation

I feel cranky and stupid: Does my brain look swollen to you?

It has been clear to medical science for a while that chronic inflammation can contribute to neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. There is now additional evidence that inflammation can also have consequences on basic mood and cognition.

I'm definitely not at my sharpest or my most generous of mood. And given my recent adventures in autoimmunity, I definitely have an inflammation problem. Could the two be related? 

Or am I just a cranky, sleep-deprived middle aged woman?


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Excessive Glycogen Availability with a Side of Collagen

I am eating a lot less sugar lately...but, of course, I am still surrounded by it.


There is more and more evidence that consuming too many easily digested carbohydrates can have serious health consequences that are neurological, cardiovascular and autoimmune. Most of the sugar we ingest is stored in cells in the  liver and muscles in the form of glycogen for future use. But we can only store so much at a time.

The Paleo community argues that we ought to eat more like our Paleolithic ancestors did. These hunter gatherers probably walked something like 11 miles a day in search of foods that were extremely low in highly processed sugars. If these people were hunting animals, they weren't looking for those manufactured by Haribo.

So, maybe a head covering made out a giant gummy bear might not be a good idea.

But Paleo folks are very much pro-collagen, with the strange result that there are many "Paleo" recipes for gummies.  And indeed, the gelatin in most gummy bears is made from animal skins and bones. (Google it if you doubt- it's one of those "frightening things you didn't know" sort of memes)

Sadly, both refined sugar and animal skin and bones have not been on my menu lately.  I have at least temporarily starved out much of my "appetite" for sugar. After a few days without food, something like romaine lettuce tastes remarkably sweet. But I was a lifelong appreciator of excessively sweet things, so future overconsumption of carbohydrates still seems like a strong possibility.

I can't really say, however, that I miss gummy bears. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Neuroplastic Metabiosis with Opportunistic Organism

Meditation does not always produce a tranquil mind.


In my continuing, and arguably neurotic, quest to not again be covered in a revolting skin disorder, and to generally be more healthy, I have tried to pick up the habit of meditation. 

This is not because I particularly enjoy the activity. According to my former internist, research has shown that a regular meditation practice is "more effective than topical steroids!" A low bar, perhaps, but still relevant.

Trying to find time to just think about breathing is of course a challenge. I wake up 15 minutes early at 5:45, and try to work on the breathing in and out thing while still in bed. (Ha! I know. It barely counts if one is still in bed)

My "practice" is often interrupted by the sounds of video gameplay coming from the living room. Sounds of explosions...mayhem...giant lizards...

Metabiosis is a process in which one organism prepares an environment for another. This term usually refers a "parasitoid relationship," and perhaps it might also describe procreation and parenting...

There was a period during my first pregnancy where my son's father and I cheerfully referred to our future child as "the parasite." 

Now that he and his brother are in the world, sitting on our couch, waiting impatiently to be served a tasty afterschool snack, perhaps metabiosis might still come to mind. 

There is definitely no question that they have infected my mind as well as my body.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Psychosomatic Autointoxication

(You might not want to think too long about what is in your colon)


When much recent scientific research underlines the importance of diet and the gut microbiome in overall human health, one could be reminded of the old school digestion-obsessed health gurus like Dr Jenson, Paul Bragg, Dr. Shelton, or even John Harvey Kellogg. 

Obsessing about what is going in, and what is going on inside, can often lead to obsessing about what is coming out...or about what is not coming out.

We've all heard someone make the ridiculous  statement that people carry around 10 pounds of health-endangering decaying fecal material in their colons- that is unless they have done something extraordinary to remove it. 

In the slightly more plausible theory of "autointoxication," proponents argue that poor diet leads the body to reabsorb waste products through the walls of the large intestine from material retained within. that really what happens? Well, maybe not...but no one feels good about poor internal housekeeping, so to speak.

While I remain mostly frightened of the various procedures that might access my contents of my large intestine, during the last few months, I have spent more time discussing the bowel habits of myself and my family than I ever imagined possible. 

I can't make fun of anyone else for spending too much time talking about poop, as I now live in a glass house on this topic.

But I am glad that I don't have a glass colon.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Suppression of Symptoms


In the Functional Medicine model, one tries to move past just treating the symptoms to determining the source of the problem. Instead of using a medication to cure/suppress the headache, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or the disgusting rash, one tries to find the underlying cause.

I am all for this philosophy, and I did my best to refrain from medicating my disgusting rash into submission...but underlying causes can be pretty murky, multifaceted and hard to pin down.

Sometimes a little- or a lot- of suppression isn't all bad.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Problematic Body Composition

(But take note of the low percentage of abdominal fat)


While I usually think about "composition" more in the fine art sense, in the health and fitness realm, the term "body composition" refers to the relative percentages of fat, muscle water and bone.

My body composition has been a bit off both senses.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Topical Mimesis of Hormetic Stressors

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger...Unless It Annoys You to Death.


Poor Self-Regulation Can Be Contagious.


Hormesis "is a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect (improved health, stress tolerance, growth or longevity) results from exposure to low doses of an agent that is otherwise toxic or lethal when given at higher doses." Exercise might be described as hormetic. Antioxidants in food could be another example. 

Thinking about about my immediate superficial stressors, I kept coming back to the people yelling at me...either in my own house or virtually on TV. 

Of course they are yelling because they are poor self regulators...either because they are children...or problematic adults. 

But I find that stress...and annoyance...can certainly be contagious, perhaps more often than it is hormetic.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Necrotizing Atrophy with Theoretical Herxheimer Reaction

Who will die-off first?


There is a common theory that as one is being treated for an infection or to remove a toxin, the treatment will initially make the symptoms worse, or cause apparently unrelated new symptoms. The official term is the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction...or more colloquially, when discussing parasites or yeast, "die-off."

Functional medicine is always looking for the underlying cause of a problem, poor diet, life style, or some sort of infection or toxic exposure.  

I was certainly an offender in the lifestyle category as I hadn't gotten a full night's sleep in 13 years (pretty close to a completely factual statement)...And I had consumed some gluten, dairy, nightshade vegetables and sugar over the years. Having removed those crimes, I am left with the potential infection or toxin. 

Treatment for suspected interlopers is not necessarily making me feel any better of course. 
....And just because symptoms get worse doesn’t mean that one is necessarily experiencing die-off.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Brain Fog and the Cranial Rodent

Brain Fog vs. the Cranial Rodent


During my recent haphazard medical research, I discovered that "Brain Fog" seems to be on the symptom list for practically every condition, autoimmune or other.

This is certainly a symptom I could ascribe to myself. Even before I became distracted by my skin problems, and before I put all my mental processes into slow motion while fasting, I was definitely suffering from cognitive fog. I used to ascribe my inability to retain information and general slow-wittedness to 13 years of sleep deprivation, but at this point, I am not so sure. The idea that my mental lapses might be autoimmune in source is at least more appealing than the idea of premature dementia.

In my cognitively compromised and time pressed state, much of my medical research has happened via Audible or through podcasts.

One podcast I have been listening to is "Smart Drug Smarts" hosted by Jesse Lawler.  Not too long ago, he interviewed Michael Graziano a professor of neuroscience at Princeton University who wrote "Consciousness and the Social Brain"(2013) Their conversation was mostly about the problem of determining the source and effects of consciousness. Mr. Graziano used the story of a patient of a doctor friend who believed that he has a squirrel in his head to explain the nature of the questions we can ask about consciousness. Using the squirrel as a metaphor for consciousness, he pointed out the difference between the question of "why doesn't the squirrel show up on an MRI?" vs "why does the man think he has a squirrel in his head?"

While probably not following all of the conversation, my compromised mind found the idea of the brain squirrel pretty compelling.

One of the many recommended treatments for brain fog and health problems is mindfulness and meditation. I've been giving it a shot, but I am constantly afflicted by what is often described as "monkey mind"- constant chattering in the head.

Maybe what I am suffering from is actually squirrel mind.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Dysregulated Autophagy


(But what if I taste bad?)

"Autophagy" is the term for a biological process where the body consumes itself, cleaning out dysfunctional material. 

This process can supposedly be brought on by fasting, exercise, or our popular friend, the ketogenic diet.

 The Nobel Prize in medicine was in fact recently awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi
for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy. His work involved yeast, and does not have immediate applications in human beings. 

The autophagic process can supposedly stop cancerous growths and disease processes like diabetes. But I fear that like many scientific discoveries, it will prove to be much more complicated in people.

My adventures in self-cannibalism have definitely been mixed.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dysbiosis with Psychosomal Intestinal Permeability

Don"t be distracted by the leaky gut.


While I had what looked like a skin disorder at the beginning of the summer, I quickly discovered that my digestive system was probably at least implicated, if not entirely to blame. One cannot read three sentences about alternative health or functional medicine lately without tripping over the aesthetically unpleasant term, "leaky gut."

I would have said that my digestion was pretty exemplary before the fun with the rash began. But now I have to self-identify as someone with "chronic intestinal permeability." Why this continues to be the case now that I go to bed early and no longer eat anything fun or convenient (pizza, bagels, ice cream, food in restaurants, etc, etc, etc) is a mystery that has yet to be solved.

But I can say for sure that I spend way too much time thinking about my gut and its contents.
...and that a good way to mess up your digestion is by worrying about it.
(I was originally gong to wrap my head with a human colon, but that proved to be too gross even for me to draw...although probably more interesting than just some generic intestine...maybe later...)

And for those who are becoming slightly annoyed- or are already very annoyed by me and my whining about health, perhaps I should add that this drawing series is just for #inktober2016 and will definitely not continue indefinitely.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Selective Hypertrophy With Inflammatory Lipogenesis

Definitely Not "Fat Adapted"

#inktober 2016 drawing #4

While treating my autoimmune disorder through "alternative" methods early this summer, I made some visits to the land of eating disorders. While I would like to think I was just being a tourist and not a potential resident, I did not come back entirely unaffected.

As I had never dieted before in my life, my first 5 day fast was a bit of a sneak attack on my body, and I ended up alarmingly thin.

Afterwards, I did my best to stuff myself back to a more normal size as quickly as possible. I needed to gain weight so I could  fast again, and again, in order to successfully get rid of my disgusting skin symptoms.

And no one was please to see me so thin. My family was quite alarmed, and acquaintances and strangers were peculiarly, and sometimes intensely, hostile.

While my fasting goal was about clearing the symptoms of my autoimmune condition and not about being thin, since it has changed so much over the last few months, it is still a little difficult to not be confused about what size my body should be now.

The general health benefits of intermittent fasting, and ketogenic diets are very much in the media lately, and there is a lot of conversation about "fat adaptation." Ketosis suppresses epilepsy, appears to limit inflammation and brain degeneration, and might be used to cure autoimmune disorders and cancer. One is supposed to consume so few carbohydrates, that the body "learns" how to burn fat as it does while fasting.

Despite fasting several times, I don't think my body ever learned this fat burning trick, and I can't imagine myself pulling off a ketogenic diet as it requires consuming a mere 10% of calories from carbohydrates and a remarkable 70% from fat. Supposedly after one is fat adapted, or "in ketosis" one can go long periods without food while not becoming weak or tired...or cranky. The metabolism is more efficient, and, ironically, less likely to retain unhealthy fat.

To all of this, I say ha, ha, ha. While definitely not "fat adapted," after being starved a few times, my body is now much better adapted to holding on to fat.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hyperkeratosis with Pandiculating Pseudopodia

#inktober drawing #3

Continuing the non-napkin series of drawings  based on sciencey terminology inspired by my recent marination in pseudo and alternative medical research.

To explain a little: I came down with an autoimmune condition involving my skin at the beginning of the summer. Needless to say, many have suffered much worse things. If you have to choose between, say something overtly life threatening like cancer, and a really gross rash on your face, neck, arms and legs, well, no contest, right? 

I tried to see it as a fashion opportunity: Sunglasses, a stylish scarf, arm sleeves (they come in fun patterns and make it look like you might be healing some cool arm tattoos) and new long pants to wear during the hot days of summer. 

Everyone from my internist to my dental hygienist was happy to inform me that once I had an autoimmune condition, I was surely going to have it for the rest of my life, so there was some work to do on the acceptance of my situation and the mourning of my ability to every wear short sleeves in public again without frightening strangers on the train.

I would have identified myself as a pretty healthy specimen before the advent of the disorder...never really got sick, able to take care of everyone else, able to function on 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night for 13 years...

Clearly my skin was telling me that I had committed some health crimes and was not really in great shape after all. 

The short version of the story is that after a lot of research and some slightly scary alternative treatment, involving not eating a lot of stuff, and not eating at all for several days at a time, my skin is all better for the moment....(strangely it is more compliant that it has ever been)

But, while presently asymptomatic, I am still afflicted with a mild obsession with health issues.  Thus, the terminology in this series of drawings. And probably the grossness.